There is growing evidence linking heavy social media use with increased risks for anxiety and depression. These mental health issues can, in turn, impact a student’s school performance, such as difficulties focusing, studying, or even simply attending school. It’s important for caregivers to understand what is happening on social media and how to reduce its negative impact.
Virtual spaces are everywhere in today’s world and have become a constant presence in the lives of young people, offering social connectedness and the ease of instant communication. But the online world of selfies and social media also brings with it challenging situations that can have a negative impact on youth mental health.
The pressure to maintain a perfect online image, fueled by constant comparison to peers, can lead to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. Young people may experience fear of missing out (FOMO) when they watch the highlight reels of their friends’ lives, bringing on feelings of loneliness and isolation. In addition, exposure to cyberbullying and negative comments can take a toll on their self-esteem, putting them at risk of experiencing depression.
The new Mental Health America toolkit, “Selfies, Social, and Screens: Navigating Virtual Spaces for Youth,” provides educational resources that tackle these topics. For caregivers, they cover the basics of what youth are doing online, how online activity can impact mental health, tips for talking to youth about difficult feelings they may experience, and how to help young people reduce the potentially harmful effects of social media.